Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 159,624         Comments: 742

Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Led by Stuart Bennett (Captain), right, the cross-country team returns from a practice run around the nearby country-side.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, November 1959

742 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Tim on 18th June 2017  

Nowadays it seems brief type swimming trunks (Speedos) are reserved for serious swimmers. At least I can feel comfortable wearing them abroad where they are more commonly seen.

Comments by Neil on 17th June 2017  

Back Marshall all the way .. in my day quite normal ... never batted an eyelid!

Comments by Marshall on 17th June 2017  

I know for the younger generation it would seem horrendous to swim without trunks, for us it was what we always thought was the norm. Just like we did football in football kit, we just accepted swimming as something that is done without anything on. We weren't embarrassed, even for the galas since it's not like there were any outside spectators and the teachers that were there couldn't care less about what we were wearing. We were worried about whether we would win or lose, not about being nude.

I'm sure Bradley you accepted that briefs are the commonly accepted swimming kit, just like we accepted nothing as being the right kit.

Comments by Bradley on 16th June 2017  

Marshall, this is quite shocking to say the least! I remember when I was in school I was selected for a swim competition where my team and I were given these tight swim briefs to wear. Even that was a bit too uncomfortable to be in, can't imagine how bad it must have been to be wearing nothing at all

Comments by Marshall on 16th June 2017  

I'm not quite sure since it was a long time ago but as far as I know the only spectators were the swimming teacher and the team captains, who were also teachers. So there weren't any outside spectators not involved in organising the gala.

Comments by Tim on 13th June 2017  


Did bother you having to swim in a gala presumably in front of a lot of in the nude?

Comments by Alf on 12th June 2017  

Thanks for your answer, Marshall.

Were there any spectators during your swimming galas?

If so would there also be females included, like female teachers or staff, or relatives?

Comments by Marshall on 11th June 2017  

Alf, I will answer all your questions in order below:
The teacher was our PE teacher who also taught swimming.

The classes were 15 to 20 people in size, same as a normal lesson. We had one lesson a week.

It was compulsory for all students. The teacher wore swimming shorts and a jacket.

I only joined the school in Year 11 when I was 16 years old. Before that, I lived in a different town and went to a different school, where we did not have swimming lessons. As far as I know all years did their lessons without swimwear.

It was a boys' school.

For swimming galas we still had to be nude, although only the best swimmers actually got selected (me included!). As far as I know, our school never took part in any inter-school swimming competitions.

Comments by Turner on 10th June 2017  

The showering procedure described by Rob on 9 June is the situation at my local leisure centre although it is noticeable that hardly anyone under about 30 uses the showers. That tends to be the generation who wear long trousers and sweatshirts or fleece jackets in the gym.

At the refurbished swimming pool that I use, the showers are mixed sex, meaning you can't remove your trunks. Instead of a communal single sex changing room you have to use an individual cabin so tiny that it's difficult to dry yourself. In my experience of German leisure centres the showers are mixed sex and everyone showers naked together, The Germans accept this as normal.

Comments by Bradley on 10th June 2017  

Rob, I definitely wouldn't feel comfortable being nude in front of strangers in a sauna. When it's in front of guys I know it's not a problem at all but it would be awkward in front of strangers. I guess if I grew up in Finland I would be more comfortable with that culture but, being British, public nudity isn't my thing!

Comments by Bradley on 10th June 2017  

William. I meant that a teacher forcing a child to take their trunks off when swimming is indeed child abuse. Teacher can say "you need to shower after swimming and showering should be done without trunks" but if a student does not want to shower naked the teacher cannot make him take his trunks or take them off himself. He'd have to either give the kid a detention, inform a parent or allow him to shower with trunks (most likely the third option to avoid any controversy).

In my school what happened was the teacher told us at our first ever lessons that "showering is done without trunks" and we all got on with it. Teachers never supervised us showering and no one had a problem with it. But forcing a child to even take their shirt off these days would be controversial.

Comments by William on 10th June 2017  

Bradley, Yesterday you said nude showering isn't child abuse but on 1st June "Teachers cannot force children to take off their trunks while showering as this would indeed be considered child abuse".
Either way, I'm glad your university sports teams are as relaxed about nudity as we became at school - thanks to compulsory nude showers.

Comments by Rob on 10th June 2017  

Bradley, agree absolutely with your first paragraph; you just have to go along with whatever you are expected to do.
Similarly,now in university,you are able to feel like one of the boys,a man even,without any inhibitions about being naked in the changing rooms with your mates. Nothing wrong with that;just enjoy yourself! How confident would you feel now about going nude in a mixed sauna?

Comments by Bradley on 9th June 2017  

Rob, I do feel that my generation is too inhibited compared to people in other countries. But I'm sure you can agree that when everyone is covering themselves, you don't want to be the only one who's not. It just wasn't considered approaches to ever be naked in front of others.

Interestingly, it's not the same at university (men's, don't think the same applies for women's teams but not sure) sports teams. Straight after practice at the changing rooms we take everything off, walk to the showers and back and even talk about the match and everything for a few minutes and none of us even think about the fact that we are wearing absolutely nothing. But sports teams only consist of certain types of guys and the vast majority of my generation certainly aren't like this!

Comments by Alf on 9th June 2017  

We didn't have the luxury of a swimpool at the schools I went to, so I am curious about how these swim classes went on.

When you say "teacher" during these lessons do you mean an ordinary teacher who just supervised the swim class or a swim coach who actually taught swimming lessons?

How big were the classes for swimming and how often were they during the week?

Was the nudity during these classes compulsory for everyone or just at the teacher's whim?

Was the nudity required at every age or just in juniors?

Was it a mixed school, and if so did the girls wear swimsuits for their classes?

Did you have swimming competitions at the school, or inter school competitions, and were suits worn for these occasions when there would obviously be spectators, or did you still have to be nude?

Comments by Rob on 9th June 2017  

Fred, you'er right about mixed saunas abroad ,I've experienced them in Germany and Austria and a couple of months ago posted my comments here. Bradley,you said that it was important to overcome our inhibitions and referred to attitudes in other countries. I am therefore surprised that you took so much effort to protect your modesty when showering at school. After our P.E.lessons we would return to the changing rooms and take our shorts off and leave them on the benches with our other clothes and walk naked to the showers,where as I've already mentioned, we all had to stand together under about five large shower heads. We very quickly lost any lingering inhibitions.

Comments by Marshall on 9th June 2017  

William you're right about the inhibited nature of people these days. Everything is child abuse even when a child isn't being harmed.

It's all about intent. If a teacher wants to humiliate, wants to take advantage of a child that is abuse. But my teacher certainly did not intend to do these things when we swam nude.

Comments by Bradley on 9th June 2017  

William I didn't say that nude showering is child abuse. I was talking about nude swimming. Its important that showers are done without trunks as a matter of hygiene but swimming without trunks seems unnecessary humiliating, especially in front of others and a teacher. My experience of showers was that we'd wrap a towel around our waists, face the wall, turn the tap on and then wrap our towels back on and walk out. It's worth noting we had curtains as well.

Nowadays it's just not appropriate to do swimming lessons wearing nothing. There's no need for it.

Comments by Fred on 7th June 2017  

I agree with your comments compared with European countries we tend to be more inhibited about nudity, or showing too much of our body. Hence the fashion for so many lads to wear such long swimming shorts.
I believe in some countries, e.g. Sweden etc. people have saunas where male & female share the same sauna naked.
As I wrote in a previous comment, in the 60's we did not seem to worry about nudity when all lads together

Comments by William on 6th June 2017  


Your comments are always interesting because you left school recently, but why do you think that compulsory nude showers are child abuse when on 22nd October in the Burnley Grammar discussion you said "showers were compulsory, done nude, which we had no problem with"?

A number of times you have made the point that "trunks prevent certain parts of the body from being washed"" and "the area covered by swimwear is one of the places most prone to infection". You are right. What causes the spread of disease in swimming pools is not nude swimming but unclean swimmers.

We all know that most people in Britain do not have a soapy shower before they swim in public pools. That is why our pools have so much chlorine in them. Is not the reason that, compared with many European countries, we tend to be more inhibited about nudity?

All right-thinking people want children to be properly protected, but if we see child abuse where none exists young people will become more repressed about their bodies, which may cause them problems of inhibition that we who got used to nude showers or swimming have generally not had to contend with.

Comments by Marshall on 2nd June 2017  

Yes it was a boys school. I suppose the school just decided that the old policy was outdated and decided to tell teachers to start requiring that trunks be worn. I do think nude swimming has become outdated now, and today's society would definitely consider it inapproaite so no I don't think it would be a feasible idea anymore.

However, from my experience, apart from the first few lessons where it was a bit of a shock , everyone did get used to it. As long as there is privacy (in the sense of no one from outside being able to see) and the lessons are single sex I don't think there's anything wrong with it. But I completely understand that people do have reservations about it and most parents these days wouldn't be happy with it. Things have just changed.

Comments by Bradley on 1st June 2017  

Alfie, the vast majority of schools don't make students take group showers without trunks. At most schools, showers themselves are optional and even when compulsory the teacher cannot oversee the showers and therefore students hardly ever shower. Teachers cannot force children to take off their trunks while showering as this would indeed be considered child abuse.

And there is a big difference between having a quick shower while not wearing anything (most likely for less than one minute and facing the wall) ng nude in the swimming pool. The latter can lead to diseases spreading and is not something the students or teachers would be comfortable with. I certainly wouldn't be comfortable with it. It's just not appropriate and it's wrong. Nude swimming in schools would be an outrage and rightly so.

Comments by Fred on 31st May 2017  

I understand Bradley's comments and children & students of all ages need protecting. But everything today is Child Abuse. Even down to applying sun cream to someone else's child.( Although this in itself is a form of protection)

I also agree with Marshall re the comments on shyness and confidence.
For me I attended secondary school 1961 to 1966 in an era when most secondary schools were single sex. We thought nothing of changing for pe and showering in a communal room. Furthermore I was in the Scouts whilst it was still all male. At camp we would be six to a tent again all stripping off for bed and mostly sleeping in sleeping bags with no clothing because it was too hot. This was how it was no privacy. Toilets were latrines behind a hessian screen no individual sections for privacy. Washing was done in the local river mainly as a swimming activity. The leaders wore trunks and although all the boys had taken trunks to camp, the majority seemed to decide not to wear them. Bravado I think and a time when we considered ourselves as men.


Comments by Alfie on 31st May 2017  

Bradley, it was school policy that made boys swim nude and not the teachers who ran the classes. I can't imagine a teacher making boys swim nude unless it was required by the school.
Group naked showers are still required in some schools today, so I don't see much difference if they also swam nude.
There was the recent case of the Muslim boy who refused to take part in the school's nude shower policy because it was against his religion to show his naked body to others. He was given the choice of either taking part or being expelled.
I did not follow the case, but I think that when his parents took the case to court the school won the case.

Comments by Gerald on 29th May 2017  

Marshall, was this a boys school? And why did they decide to start requiring that trunks be worn? Do you think this practice should be continued or not? Thanks in advance

Comments by Marshall on 28th May 2017  

Interesting discussion here. I vaguely remember having a few swimming lessons in secondary school where we did not wear trunks. The year after it was abolished and we were told to start wearing trunks. So only a few lessons were spent doing it without them. Although I think it was for our own good that it was done nude. It's good to get rid of shyness and this seems to be a huge problem amongst the youth of today. They don't have the same level of confidence.

Comments by Bradley on 28th May 2017  

Terry, it would certainly be illegal and the school would face legal action and the teachers may also face child abuse investigations. They would most likely be banned from teaching children. It is widely considered to be child abuse to make students do swimming lessons without trunks.

Comments by Terry on 26th May 2017  

What would happen today though if a school tried to bring in a no swimming trunks to be worn policy. Mind you I do not think many schools have swimming lessons in their curriculum. Certainly not high schools.
When I was at secondary school we did going to swimming lessons at the municipal pool where the session was reserved for our class alone. The teacher was employed by the local education committee and he taught for all schools.

Comments by Alf on 25th May 2017  

Good observation, Peter.
Some have similarly brought the argument of why put on swimming trunks when the boys showered naked together before and after swimming.

Comments by Peter on 21st May 2017  

To Jamie

If the school policy had been no trunks for swimming, forgetting them would not have been an issue and no question of punishments.

Comments by Jamie on 21st May 2017  

Terry, the situation I described was fairly rare. More often than not if a boy forgot his trunks he did so because he'd brought gym kit by mistake and therefore would end up wearing his PE shorts to swim. I did that myself a couple of times.
I only saw the alternative happen three or four times in all my time at school and yes, boys were given the choice. This may surprise you but I can only remember one boy opting to do the lesson naked! Even though the other option was humiliating and uncomfortable, it was generally seen as preferable to stripping off completely. Which I suppose is strange when you consider that we all had to shower naked after PE anyway!

Comments by Terry on 19th May 2017  

Jamie your comments re punishment for forgetting trunks sounds severe. It begs the question was it effective or did boys still forget their trunks. If so did the lad have a choice of which of the 2 punishments he could take and if so which did most opt for?

Comments by Jamie on 18th May 2017  

That's a pretty comprehensive check list Mr Wallace - I can safely say I experienced all of those at school except points 2 and 9!
I can also add one of my own... if a boy forgot his swimming trunks and also his PE shorts, he was given a choice. Either he had to swim naked or, wearing just underwear, he had to spend time face down on the stone surface just outside the swimming pool building, practising front crawl. This was in view of the teacher so there was no slacking and the crawl practice was interspersed with rounds of press ups. It was a) cold, b) humiliating to be seen doing the punishment in your underwear, and c) you inevitably ended up with scratches and scrapes on your chest from small pieces of gravel!

Comments by Bradley on 18th May 2017  

Rob, thankfully I never had that same experience with showering. Our modesty was protected.

As for Stephen and Jordan's questions, I'll answer them below.

We did normal PE lessons and football/rugby in our PE kit, which was a PE t shirt and shorts. But for cross country, even though we spent most of Year 7-9 doing it in the same kit, in Year 10 onwards we had a different teacher who said we should do it in shorts only. He said the course was too easy and that we needed to build endurance, and he also used some awful excuse of the possibility of getting mud on our t shirts, which parents apparently complained about.

Obviously no one likes it but no one wanted to seem like a p*ssy either so we all just got on with it. It was defenilty a lot harder because of the cold. At the end of the course, most of us were so tired that we didn't even shower.

Comments by Alf on 13th May 2017  

Mr.wallace, most of the points you mention were pretty common in those days at school, except where you say
" Having to get changed in the gym to walk naked passed the girls in the corridor to shower".
Can you explain further about this, because I think that putting boys on display naked in front of girls was jumping the limit and pretty uncommon in those days.
Was this a one-off incident or a regular occurrance at your school, and what age were you?

Comments by Mr Wallace on 6th May 2017  

The nightmares of school more than 30 years ago!

1 Having to do school swimming in see through white shorts.

2 Having to get changed in the gym to walk naked passed the girls in the corridor to shower.

3 The bomb bell going off in the changing room so we had to walk outside half naked.

4 Being forced to do pe in the gym topless because you had the wrong white top.

5 Being forced to turn your rugby shirt inside out on the soccer pitch for games.

6 Being forced to shower naked in the walk through shower.

7 No tracksuits for boys during the winter.

8 Having to try yourself with your pe kit if you forgot your towel.

9 Being spanked in white shorts for an offence I did not commit

10 Having your groin forced into the ground while being made to do press ups by the coach!

Comments by Rob on 5th May 2017  

Bradley, our showers in the late fifties were obviously a lot different to those at your school. We had a row of, I think, about five showers with very large heads standing out overhead from the wall and so a class of thirty boys would have to stand, about six at a time fairly close together under each shower. So which ever way we stood there was certainly no way we could avoid seeing one another naked and we just got used to it.

Comments by Stephen on 1st May 2017  

Bradley, I'm surprised topless cross country is a thing even nowadays? Why did your school do this and what type of school was this? We're people fine with this policy?

Comments by Jordan on 1st May 2017  

Hi Bradley, glad that you feel the same as I do about some of these bizarre practices!
Out of interest how recently were you at school - and what were the reasons given for you to do cross country topless? I left just over 20 years ago and we were never given any kind of explanation...

Comments by Bradley on 30th April 2017  

Jordan, I agree with your point that nude swimming is a horrible idea. I can't even comprehend that this was ever a rule. As someone who left school very recently, something like that would be inconceivable.

I agree that nude showering isn't a problem, it wasn't a problem for me since we all faced the wall when showering and there was the unwritten rule of not looking at each other when in that situation. It makes sense to shower with nothing on; I don't think I know anyone who showers at home with trunks on, so why should the same not apply to schools? It's important to clean everything after going in the pool for hygiene reasons.

I can't imagine how doing a swimming lesson naked would be hygienic. Would be pretty disgusting and humiliating to say the least.

Our cross country lessons were done topless, which was odd since I don't know any other school that did this. The reasons for doing so were questionable to say the least.

Comments by Jordan on 25th April 2017  

Just catching up on the recent posts here and I totally agree with Willy's view - logical and sensible for boys to take nude showers. But nude swimming? To me it seems incredible this form of humiliation was ever commonplace in schools. I just cannot understand why boys would be expected to strip naked for a class, especially with girls looking on.
I'm relieved to say I never experienced nude swimming at school - but topless cross country was another matter. I'm not sure why Rob thinks it promotes discipline and self confidence among boys if they are forced to run around wet, muddy fields in only a pair of shorts. Personally it made me feel resentful and humiliated and, as Willy says, it was totally unnecessary for us to be topless. I felt at the time and still do now that sadistic games teachers just saw it as a means to make us boys feel small.

Comments by Willy on 21st April 2017  

Rob, although I agree with you on the necessity of nude showers after exercise and swimming, I think that both nude swimming and topless cross country runs were unnecessary and harsh.
Proof of this is that teachers and coaches always wore trunks during these swimming lessons and also wore protective tops during these runs when they accampanied the boys, especially in winter.

Regarding nude swimming it was especially humiliating for the boys when there were other teachers and school staff present, including females. Some mention that they even had to be nude for swimming galas in front of parents and guests and also female teachers.

Comments by Rob on 10th April 2017  

Stephen,you were at an all boys school as I was and a great many others were.We soon got used to being naked in the open showers without embarrassment.It was indeed very odd that you never showered after PE or swimming because it is essential that you wash away the sweat and chlorine from your body every time.If you had showered you would not have found it embarrassing swimming without trunks.
PE in just shorts, and nothing else in the gym and outside,including cross country,together with nude swimming promotes discipline and helps boys build self confidence for the future.

Comments by William on 10th April 2017  

Stephen, Plainly you did not like swimming without trunks, and yet there is much historical evidence that nude swimming for boys in and out of school was commonplace until, say, the 1920s. The reason is obvious: men went swimming long before trunks were invented. The practice lived on in non-State schools, and in the US nude swimming at the YMCA and in many high schools was the norm until the 1970s. It's very practical because you don't have to bother with wet trunks.

We got used to single sex nudity because of the showers at school. If your school did not have them, that is very odd.

Comments by Gerald on 9th April 2017  

Stephen, I'm not exactly convinced. I've know of people who didn't feel they were abused, who were used to the idea and who didn't feel uncomfortable with swimming without trunks. I feel like you're an exception to the rule. At the end of the day, the government shouldn't be regulating what schools decide. If a PE department thinks swimming with trunks is the way to go, so be it. If not, fine as well.

Comments by Stephen on 9th April 2017  

Gerald, it was an abuse of power because there is no real reason why swimming should be done without trunks. It is impractical since we could all afford trunks. As well as this, it is just not appropriate for a teacher to be able to decide that we should do swimming lessons like fhis. It was just uncomfortable, embarrassing at times and unnecessary

Comments by Gerals on 7th April 2017  

Stephen, why do you consider it an abuse of power when it is not or wasn't against the law at the time? Nude swimming is something that was normal in many schools, not exactly an abuse of power.

Comments by William on 7th April 2017  

Steve, Agree with all that. Worst was if you were the boy the master chose to demonstrate the handstand as you would have the class gathered round to watch, as in the Burnley Grammar photo, although we were always at ground level, hands on mat. This meant that with baggy shorts what was under them was really on display. Since you could not make a fuss you quickly learned composure, and as you say we were all in the showers afterwards so it hardly mattered.

We got so used to never wearing pants for gym or games that in no time we stopped thinking about it. The boys in the Burnley photo on the beam and ropes with their legs up are obviously not bothered.

Comments by Stephen on 7th April 2017  

Just saw Aly's post and I have to agree. I was at a private boys' school in the early eighties and we had to do all our swimming lessons without trunks. Thankfully policy soon ended. No child should have to be subjected to that. It is impractical and an abuse of power by schools. Weirdly enough, we never had showers after PE or swimming.

However, I disagree that doing PE bare chested is in any way an abuse.

Comments by Matt on 7th April 2017  

Late comment on Willy's posting of 10 March. Our boys only school had corporal punishment (the tawse or belt on the hands) whereas the equivalent girl's school did not.
It was not used a lot in the academic classes, but PE was a different matter, where it was in regular or even frequent use. It was hard, but I believe it really improved the standard of fitness and discipline.